Baker cuts budget again

City officials found additional ways Thursday to cut the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, but the new plan includes deficit spending of more than $2 million.

The City Council adopted a budget for 2013-14 last week, but held work sessions Monday and Thursday to continue trimming expenses.

When they left their June 11 meeting, the council members had adopted a budget requiring dwindling general fund prior-year surpluses to prop up several funds by $1,987,700 and using $380,000 from the utility fund to offset a total deficit of $2,367,700.

After this week’s discussions, the total projected deficit was reduced to $2,058,600.

Finance Director Aristead Clayton said the new figures will be introduced as a budget amendment at the council’s meeting Tuesday, with final adoption scheduled at the first meeting in July.

The projected fund balance, or surplus, on June 30, 2014, will be slightly more than $300,000. The general fund had a surplus of $9.3 million in mid-2009, according to audited figures.

Clayton said he is not content with the way the budget came out this year and will look at revenues closely during the coming year.

Mayor Harold Rideau said he plans to look closely at health insurance costs in the coming year, which may result in the council facing tough choices on how the insurance program is funded.

Darnell Waites, the mayor’s administrative assistant, said the new spending cuts will provide residents the same services as provided now, with no layoffs.

Police Chief Mike Knaps plans to shift costs for four communications officers from the general fund and a special fund for fire and police operations to a separate pot of money derived from telephone subscriber surcharges dedicated for maintaining a 911 answering station in Baker.

Knaps said the 911 fund now has a surplus and communications officers can be paid with that money. He said he also is buying four new police cars in the next year, instead of five as originally planned.

Knaps initially proposed shifting only two communications officers to the 911 budget and leaving two vacant positions unfilled, but Fire Chief Danny Edwards persuaded him that losing the two officers would hurt the city’s Class 2 fire insurance rating.